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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 20


God refuseth to be consulted by the elders of Israel, Ezekiel 20:1-3. He rehearseth the rebellions of their ancestors in Egypt, Ezekiel 20:4-9; in the wilderness, Ezekiel 20:10-26; and in the Promised Land, Ezekiel 20:27-29. He reproacheth the present generation with the like corrupt manners, Ezekiel 20:30-32. He threateneth to rule over them with rigour, but with promise to gather them, to purge out the rebels, and accept the services of the faithful in his church, Ezekiel 20:33-44. The destruction of Jerusalem prophesied under the name of a forest, Ezekiel 20:45-49.

Verse 1

The seventh year of Jeconiah’s captivity and Zedekiah’s reign, two years and five months before Nebuchadnezzar did besiege Jerusalem.

The fifth month; August.

The tenth day; which answers to cur twenty-seventh.

Certain, Heb. men. Some of note among the elders and rulers of Israel. Either some of the captives in Babylon, as most likely they were who, Ezekiel 8:1, came to him, or some of those who were sent from Zedekiah to compliment or carry tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, as most likely they were, Ezekiel 14:1.

Of the elders; not of the priests or Levites, but of the laity, civil magistrates and officers, who might be sent to view the state of Babylon, and to observe what posture things were in, the better to resolve on that Zedekiah and his councils were forming, whether it will be advisable to shake off the yoke of the king of Babylon by a rebellion, or patiently bear it: and I conjecture this might be the main inquiry they made now, which was two years and five months before the siege began, during which two years and five months I suppose the design was resolved on, framed, provision made of all sorts, and at last a rebellion raised.

Came to inquire of the Lord; yet resolved beforehand what they would do, as will appear. Prophets neither did pretend to, nor could they, resolve such inquiries, but the Lord whom the prophets did consult.

Sat before me: whether it speak the quality of the persons, that did not stand as mean persons, or their resolution to wait for answer, or be a phrase proper with the Jews to express the common deportment of the country, I leave you to guess.

Verse 2

While these men were with Ezekiel God gives him instruction what to say to them.

Verse 3

Son of man: see Ezekiel 2:3.

Speak unto the elders of Israel; speak plainly, boldly, and to their faces, fear not their frowns; if they are deputies from Zedekiah, yet let not that character make thee mealymouthed.

Thus saith the Lord God: this expression carries enough to encourage him.

Are ye come to inquire of me? are ye in good earnest? Nay, but you act a deep hypocrisy, being already resolved on your own course, and yet now pretend you would know my counsel. It is a sharp reproof of their wickedness, and God utterly refuseth to be inquired of by such.

As I live: see Ezekiel 14:16.

I will not be inquired of by you, profane hypocrites, that abuse my prophet, and tempt his God. They are, as all politicians who have less of religion than worldly wisdom, willing to hear whether the prophet will flatter, and fawn, and encourage them; if so, then he is a wise, able, honest man; else a sot to be slighted.

Verse 4

Wilt thou judge them? either, Wilt thou judge charitably, and, supposing they are upright and teachable, wilt thou plead with me for them? as Ezekiel 14:3, or as Jeremiah 14:9. Or else thus, Wilt thou argue with them, convince them, and reprove them? This is fittest to be done, and do this, handle them severely as they deserve. It is repeated, to whet the prophet, and quicken him to this work, and to intimate to us the great contumacy of the people.

Cause them to know the abominations of their fathers: tell them somewhat that they may go away wiser than they came. They expect to know what will be their fate, tell them what hath been their fathers’ carriage towards me, which they imitate, nay exceed. Their curiosity and perplexity would be informed what is to come, but their consciences need more to be informed: what their fathers have done they approved, and have outdone; by that let them know what to do, what to expect.

Verse 5

In the day; at the time, the season; it speaks not of that precise portion of hours which make up the natural day, but of the time wherein God began to show them his great mercy. When I chose; it includes mercy without merit in them, and it refers to God’s declaring by his kindness to them that he had chosen them; it supposeth the free eternal election, but it expressly refers to a temporal and seasonable selecting them from others; chosen, as Isaiah 14:1; again Deuteronomy 7:6,Deuteronomy 7:7; or possibly thus, when I went to make them a choice people by refining them from their dross and idolatries contracted in Egypt, so the word Isaiah 48:10, and selecting them.

Israel; not personally considered, but nationally.

Lifted up mine hand; either assuring them by oath that he would now make good his promise, and bring them out of bondage; it is the gesture of one that solemnly sweareth, and scriptures frequently mention it, as Ezekiel 20:15; Deuteronomy 32:40; or else, stretched out and made bare my arm, i.e. magnified my power for your deliverance.

The seed of the house of Jacob: this explaineth and tells us who Israel was.

Made myself known unto them, by the miracles which he wrought; for it is not to be understood of making known or discovering his essence and incomprehensible being. It is not unlikely that many of them either were ignorant or forgot God; now by his wonders wrought for their deliverance he brings them to remember him, and look to him. Moses’s question in Exodus 3:13 seems to intimate this ignorance of this people.

In the land of Egypt; as this expressly directs us to the place, so it points out the time too when Israel was chosen, selected.

When I lifted up mine hand unto them; showed my power in performing my oath and promise in what was now to be done, and assuring them of doing what was further promised by him, and expected by them; and to assure them the more, it is doubled.

I am the Lord your God: so Exodus 3:13,Exodus 3:16,Exodus 3:17. Yours from your progenitors, yours by promise, by covenant, and now am come to be your God by actual and punctual performing my word to you, bringing you out of the land of Egypt by a lifted-up hand and arm.

Verse 6

After the manner of man God speaks, as if he had been the spy to go from place to place to search out the best, and to appoint it for them; it was his wise and good providence which assigned this land to them. Literally, milk and honey in abundance were in the land of Canaan, and continued till this fruitful land was turned into barrenness, for the sins of its inhabitants. Proverbially, it speaks the choicest, best, the most useful and pleasant, and the plenty and abundance of all these blessings for life, and so to be here taken; and though the whole country in the utmost extent of it, as proposed for Israel, (whose sins kept them out of much of it,) were naturally a fruitful land, yet this great plenty was more from the special favour and blessing of God.

Which is the glory of all lands; makes every country desirable.

Verse 7

Then, Heb. And, which connects the words; and though we read it then, this doth not point out the time when God spake this, though it is certain, when he had brought them out of Egypt he gave them his ordinances and laws of worship; nay, it is sufficiently included, in that they were to go out that they might serve the Lord.

Cast ye away every man; let every one of you, man by man, and family by family, cast away with abhorrence and indignation; the word is used Ezekiel 18:31.

The abominations of his eyes; which your eyes should have abhorred, but you rather lifted up your eyes to them, and looked for help from them; and it includes their own voluntary act in this idolatry.

Defile not yourselves with the idols: this explains the former passage.

Of Egypt; which were in veneration among the Egyptians, and with whose worship too many of them had been insnared and polluted while they were in Egypt.

I am the Lord your God; the only true God, and therefore you should worship none other. See Ezekiel 20:6. You are my covenant people, and therefore ought to have no other God as Exodus 20:3. Thus God prepared them, by his mercies and by his law, for himself.

Verse 8

They rebelled against me; so great a sin is idolatry, it is against God, as open hostility is against a sovereign whom subjects fight against. All sin is against God, but idolatry is much more so.

And would not hearken unto me; their wills were alienated from God, they refused to hear and obey in this. They did not forsake the idols of Egypt; it is probable there were some among them that carried with them (as Rachel did her father’s) the idols of Egypt.

Then I said; I was just upon resolving, I was very near saying.

I will pour out, as a storm or mighty shower,

my fury; just and severe wrath.

To accomplish my anger against them; to make an end of them.

In the midst of the land of Egypt; that they should have perished in Egypt, and never come out.

Verse 9

I wrought, according to my promise, ny infinite mercy, and the hopes of those few that heard and obeyed.

For my name’s sake; for my glory: had you been used as you deserved, you had died slaves in Egypt, and there had been your graves; but the glory of God’s mercy and faithfulness is the motive of him sparing them.

Polluted; reproached, blasphemed, and lessened among the heathen.

The heathen, among whom they were; the Egyptians, amongst whom Israel had sojourned two hundred and fifteen years, in which time many of the children of Israel, no doubt, had discoursed of their hopes of going out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham for them, and were apt to boast of their God, and that country; and, to render the thing credible in the eyes of the Egyptians, would speak of the mercy, power, faithfulness, and wisdom of the Lord to effect this, the glory of which would have been eclipsed, and the heathen blasphemed, if God had not brought them out; when it was thus God wrought for his name’s sake.

Verse 10

Wherefore, Heb. And.

I caused them to go forth; removed all obstacles, furnished them with all necessaries, went before them, and showed them the way they should go, as is expressed, Exodus 13:17.

And brought them; I brought; it was not Moses’s error, though Pharaoh thought so, Exodus 14:3,Exodus 14:4, but the peculiar conduct of God, Exodus 14:2.

Into the wilderness; a barren, sandy part of the country, the borders of Egypt towards the Red Sea; yet having mountains which shut them in on both sides, and frontier garrisons near them: and as he brought them in, so he conducted them out of these straits, though here it is not mentioned.

Verse 11

I, who spared them in Egypt, had brought them forth, and owned them as the children of Abraham my friend: God gave his law by Moses, and now Israel’s laws are really of Divine origin, when others did but pretend it. Gave them; appointed and commanded by my authority, and communicated out of my love and kindness to them.

My statutes; the law on Mount Sinai, containing their duty.

Showed them; plainly declared, spake so that they might know.

My judgments; not the terrible executions of his wrath, but judgments here are the rules that God gave them to walk by.

If a man do; if any one, without partiality, whosoever should keep these statutes and judgments with God is no respect of persons.

He shall live: not that any ever did or could by sinless keeping the law attain the eternal blessedness; grace gives that; but it surely points out a future prosperity and flourishing state in this life to all that are careful to keep these statutes and judgments as they can; such should not be cut off, nor brought into captivity, but live and rejoice in their own land.

In them; both in the fruit of them already obeyed, and in the continuance to do them for the future.

Verse 12

I gave; both commanded, and also sanctified, those portions of time to be holy rests.

My sabbaths; either the weekly sabbath, which, recurring every seventh day, soon multiplied into many, and was to be the commemoration of God’s rest from his labour, Israel’s delivery out of Egypt, Deuteronomy 5:15, and an awakening of their hopes of the eternal rest with God; or it may, as most like it doth, include all the solemn days of God’s worship, every of which was a sabbath, and no work to be done in it.

To be a sign of their being peculiarly my people, select from all other, to walk with me, to rest in me, and receive more grace from me.

That they might know: this was a teaching sign, they might by other ways know, and by this also.

I am the Lord; in this see my authority, and my holiness, who by such means do promote and attain such holy purposes and ends.

That sanctify them; that have withdrawn them from the profane and common herd of the heathen, and made them by this relatively holy; or else, that have changed the heart, and filled it with holy, pure, and gracious inclinations, and so made them really holy.

Verse 13

The house of Israel; not a few, this I might have borne in silence, but most of them; they were, as we are, a rebellious house.

Rebelled against me; provoked me bitterly to indignation by their contumacies, and that frequently, as Exodus 17:7; Numbers 20:24; Deuteronomy 1:26,Deuteronomy 1:43; a stubborn and rebellious generation, Psalms 78:8, with Ezekiel 20:40.

In the wilderness; where they most needed my care and favour, where the preserving their life from destruction by the noxious creatures, and from famine by the barrenness of the wilderness, was a continued miracle, which required their obedience and dependence.

Walked not in my statutes; made not them the only rule of their religion, and exercise of it, as they should have done, but framed religion to their own or their neighbours’ idolatrous inclinations.

Despised my judgments; slighted first, as of little excellency, refused next, and cast off with disdain and loathing.

Which, the equitable and necessary rules for government of their civil affairs, which were framed to the safety and welfare of a people,

if a man do, he shall even live in them: see Ezekiel 20:11.

Polluted; profained with working what was prohibited, misemploying those days on idols, or on any common ordinary business, as Exodus 16:27; Numbers 15:32; Jeremiah 17:22,Jeremiah 17:23.

Then I said: see Ezekiel 20:8.

To consume them; to cut them off from being a people, as Numbers 16:21.

Verse 14

See Ezekiel 20:9, where these words are paraphrased.

Verse 15

Yet also; moreover also, as the same particles are rendered, Ezekiel 20:12.

I lifted up my hand unto them; see Ezekiel 20:5; sware in his wrath against them, Psalms 95:11.

In the wilderness of Paran, where the Israelites pitched and abode in several parts of it many days, during which time they lust for flesh, Numbers 11:4,Numbers 11:5, and murmur against the Lord, Moses, and the two faithful spies, who had searched out the land: here it was they would make them a captain and return to Egypt, Numbers 14:4.

That I would not bring them, & c: so it is recorded, Numbers 14:11,Numbers 14:12,Numbers 14:22,Numbers 14:23,Numbers 14:28-32; so all the murmuring, disobedient, unbelieving generation was excluded, and their children were brought in; which, well noted, reconcileth the seeming contrariety between the oaths of God.

Them; those rebellious and murmuring ones.

Given them; promised to the seed of Abraham, but not confined to that generation; the promise was made good, though to the next generation.

Flowing with milk and honey: see Ezekiel 20:6.

Verse 16

See the whole former part of this verse explained already, Ezekiel 20:13. Their heart went after their idols; their will and affections, their zeal and resolution, were for their idols which they served in Egypt, and which they had brought with them out of Egypt.

Verse 17

Nevertheless mine eye spared them; though they did highly provoke God, and deserved to be cut off, yet his eye pitied them: they provoked his wrath, he stirred up his compassions.

Them; not all of them, for many did die in the wilderness, and, among these, some by immediate wrath; but how many soever they were, yet the growing generation was spared, and the nation was not extirpated.

Verse 18

But, and, or then

I said. The fathers were refractory, and deaf, would not hearken, therefore God turns his advice to children. Though the particular place is not specified, yet among the calamities of that mournful age, and at the funerals of so many as then died, there were some that had piety, zeal, and courage enough to warn the survivors, and Psalms 90:7-11 affords us ground enough to believe Moses did warn and advise. In the wilderness; in that part of it where their fathers murmured, and where some were cut off by the hand of God, and in other parts through which they travelled and suffered.

Walk ye not: it is both counsel, as from love, and a command, as from power;

Live not as your fathers, for they walked contrary to reason, religion, and their own good, as much as they walked contrary to me.

Your fathers; though fathers, they may not command contrary to God’s command, nor be imitated in what they do contrary to God’s law.

Their judgments; it is observable, the prophet forbids them to imitate the customs, rites, and usages of their fathers, included in judgments, and thence passeth to forbid their imitating their fathers in their idolatry. Idolatry is fruitful when it so multiplied in Egyptian bondage, and in the desolate state of a people in the wilderness.

Verse 19

The Lord; the only God; idols, though your fathers’ idols, are no gods, therefore let them never be that to you which they are not, cannot be in themselves, the object of worship, and trust, and love.

Your God, by covenant, by redemption out of Egypt, by adoption, and giving you the law; therefore own me as such, by keeping mine ordinances and judgments to do them; I am most your Father.

Verse 20

Hallow my sabbaths; remember to keep them holy, employ them on holy works of God’s solemn and public worship, and cease from servile and worldly businesses.

A sign: see Ezekiel 20:12. As the Friday observed a rest is the sign of a Turk, the seventh day observed is the sign of a Jew, and distinguisheth: so it was of old, so it is now: the Christian sabbath is a sign between Christ and us.

May know more fully, acknowledge it more openly, and in waiting on mine ordinances may know by experience what the almighty grace of your God can do.

Verse 21

These unhappy children do even as their fathers in all points of disobediences to God; are as deaf to his counsel, and as averse to his law, which here is point by point recounted, and is the same with Ezekiel 20:13, where see it explained.

Verse 22

Nevertheless, Heb. And. God seems to take to himself the posture of one that was just going to smite, yet draws back that he might spare, and act like his own infinite goodness, not suitable to the sin of this generation.

Wrought: this is explained Ezekiel 20:9.

Verse 23

On this solemn gesture and signification, see Ezekiel 20:5. Here it is an oath added to a threat, to make it more dreadful to them, and to make it successful in keeping them from the sin threatened.

That I would scatter them; foretold them of a captivity which should come upon them for their sins, which it is probable was often inculcated in their hearing before Moses penned it for them, Deuteronomy 32:15-42; Leviticus 26:31-33, and it is ingeminated to make it pierce the deeper, and affect them the more.

Verse 24

The whole 24th verse is already explained Ezekiel 4:16, which see.

They, that travelled through the wilderness, had not executed my judgments, in all that forty years, wherein their fathers were to be wasted, and by which their children should have learned, kept, and done God’s judgments, but did them not.

Their fathers’ idols; which their fathers chose in Egypt, and retained with them, and now their children serve the same, even the Egyptian idols.

Verse 25

Because they did by such perverse obstinacy reject the statutes I did in mercy give them; my good laws and judgments, saith God, they despised; for this cause God proceeds to punish them in a dreadful kind and manner,

Gave them; not by appointing or enjoining, but by permitting them to make such for themselves, much like that Romans 1:24, giving up to a reprobate sense, or that 2 Thessalonians 2:11; Psalms 81:11,Psalms 81:12, as a governor or father, after long and fruitless strivings with an obstinate and unruly youth, gives him up at last as hopeless, and casts off the care and guidance of him.

Statutes; orders and rules about their religious worship, which they first invented, next approved, and lastly made their established religion, where all they could love in it was, that it was their own.

Were not good; had nothing in them that was morally good, pious, or suited to the spiritual nature of God; that were unprofitable, and ministered nothing to the edifying and bettering of men, nor could commend the users of them to God; that were indeed pernicious to the users, and increased their sins, being superstitious and idolatrous: so the not good is very bad, inconvenient, and hurtful.

Whereby they should not live: if it be not explicatory of the former, it may, it is possible, refer distinctly to the inconvenient, oppressive, and unsafe courses, decrees, and edicts about civil matters, which were such as they could never thrive under; for however some heathen nations have thrived under an evident blessing from Heaven, though their religion were idolatrous, yet I do not remember that an apostate nation ever retained their good government and civil prosperity under their apostacy from God; thus the judgments given were such they could not live in them; they made grievous and destructive laws for themselves and theirs.

Verse 26

Polluted them; either I permitted them to pollute themselves, or discovered that they had polluted themselves, or treated them with loathing and abhorrence, as polluted persons.

In their own gifts; either in their gifts which they pretended to bring to me, or rather in their sacrifices they offered to whom, or at least in what manner, they, not I, had chosen; or, which is most likely, gifts are here their first-born, which are more than other children accounted gifts.

Through the fire: see Ezekiel 16:20,Ezekiel 16:21. Most insufferable affront to God, to see those children inhumanly offered to the devil, which, in remembrance of his redeeming the fathers, were consecrated to God! Exodus 13:2; and possibly this was first done when they offered to Baalpeor, Numbers 25:3.

To the end, & c.; to provoke God so to afflict, weaken, and waste by his judgment, till it should undeniably appear that God had by signal displeasure against them for their sins brought them to desolation.

Might know; be convinced, and forced to own, that the Lord is a mighty King in punishing those that might, but would not, have him a gracious King in governing and guiding them.

Verse 27

Since all this evil and wicked carriage in Egypt and in the wilderness is too true, and cause of a Divine wrath against them, go on; tell what the deportment of those was whom I brought into the land.

Unto the house of Israel; to those elders that were now come to him, that they might tell others at Jerusalem.

Yet; or further yet, beside all the rest, this is added by them.

Blasphemed me; profanely and frowardly lessened my mercy, my law, my worship, cast a reproach upon it all, as less desirable than that of their own; theirs more august and stately, more taking and pleasing: or thus reproached my wisdom, as if it needed their additions to complete religion and Divine worship; or reproached my bounty, as if not I, but their idols, gave them what they enjoyed, as Hosea 2:5,Hosea 2:7,Hosea 2:8; the word speaks a reproach and blasphemy that comes from a heart full of enmity, as where it is used, Numbers 15:30; 2 Kings 19:22; Psalms 44:16; Isaiah 37:23; Isaiah 43:28; they spitefully reproached.

Committed a trespass against me; grievously sinned, as the phrase is rendered, Ezekiel 14:13; what this was in particular the next verse will account to us.

Verse 28

When; so soon as settled in the land promised to Abraham and his seed.

Lifted up mine hand: see Ezekiel 20:5,Ezekiel 20:23.

Saw; lookest after them, and, when seen, liked and prepared after the manner of the heathen; though this was forbidden, yet this thou didst, buildedst thy high places, and thou settest up thy groves every where.

There; not where God appointed, but where they listed.

Their sacrifices; either to God, as sometimes some did, or to their own idols, as the most did, which is here called the presenting the provocation of their offering.

Their offering; which being presented to their idol, was a provocation unto God.

Sweet savour; burnt sweet odours to their idols, which did stink in the nostrils of God.

Their drink-offerings; wine was a part of the offering that sacrificers offered, and so did these idolatrous Jews here, they violated the whole law of sacrifice, and did all that to idols they should have done only to God.

Verse 29

Then; when they were intent upon this horrid course of sin, God pleaded by his messengers, and prophets, and law, and some faithful priests, What mean you, that ye go to the high place? should you not go to the altar of God, and bring your sacrifices to the temple? Or what God better than Abraham’s do you expect there? What profit by attending upon those sacrifices offered daily? How often have you by such-like means poured contempt on God and his law!

Whereunto ye go; leaving my temple, and the service I prescribed, and in other places, unrequited, doing their supposed duties.

Bamah; high place: the very word tells them their wickedness, that they acted against the express will of God, and framed themselves to idolaters of the nation.

Unto this day; and this they did with obstinacy continue in to the days of Josiah, 2 Chronicles 34:3. Thus far the narrative of their great wickednesses.

Verse 30

The house of Israel; those elders that were come to him, as Ezekiel 20:1, which see. They come to make inquiry, and now the prophet inquires of them, that their own conscience might make answer, and tell them what to expect: Your fathers, where are they? What became of some, that bore their iniquity? And what had become of the rest, if God had not withdrawn his hand? And all this hath been no warning to you, but, as they, so you, have polluted yourselves, and been idolaters.

Verse 31

Your gifts: see Ezekiel 20:26.

All your idols; it seems they took a compendious way to increase sin and wrath; they worshipped many idols at once; and this they did still to Ezekiel’s time, to that very day. Are you fit to come and ask counsel of me, whom you have so shamelessly, so obstinately forsaken and reproached? Can you expect I should answer you? My prophet knew you not to be hypocrites, but his God, who knows you, and all your abominations, hath put the answer into his mouth, which you must be content with. I will answer you as little as you regard me. So God refuseth them.

Verse 32

God by his prophet, to convince and recover them, tells them what they think and have purposed.

Shall not be at all; shall be quite frustrated.

Ye say; you have consulted and come to a resolution herein.

As the heathen; unite in habitation, covenants, marriages, commerce, and religion too; and then ye shall be more safe among them, thrive with them, and all the displeasure they have against you will cease: these are your imaginations and contrivances of you at the court of Zedekiah in Jerusalem. But I tell you that this shall not be at all. This designed apostacy to Gentilism, if you do act it, shall not prosper with you, or help you, ye blind, hardened, senseless atheists.

Verse 33

As I live: see Ezekiel 20:3.

A mighty hand; so mighty, that you shall never wrest yourselves out of it: you think to revolt, and get out of my hand, but you shall hereby discover your own folly, malice, and weakness.

A stretched out arm, which reacheth every where, whence you can never flee, which shall be most visible.

With fury; in hot, but just indignation.

Poured out; as an inundation from a mighty river, or like a violent storm poured from the clouds, or as a full vessel emptied all at once.

Rule over you; retain my right over you, and exercise it on you, us on combined rebels, since you will refuse my rule, as over-loyal subjects. If you will not be my free subjects, you shall be lettered slaves; the chains of affliction, the restraints of providence crossing you, the execution of my menaces, shall be too sharp and thick a hedge for you to break through; I will make every place where you are a prison for strength to confine you, and I will make it a prison for the sorrows and hardships you shall there endure, and all this in my fury.

Verse 34

From the people; Sidonians, Ammonites, Moabites, &c., whoever they were to whom the house of the apostate Jews betook themselves; where they thought to lurk, God will bring them thence into Babylonish captivity.

Will gather you; the same thing doubled for greater emphasis.

Are scattered; you dispersed yourselves for your supposed safety and welfare.

With a mighty hand: see Ezekiel 20:33. My power and arm shall execute my just displeasure on you.

Verse 35

Bring you; drive you; and since you think of such a course of ease to yourselves by casting me off among the nations, I will bring you among such as you shall be soon weary of.

Into the wilderness; into the most horrid, barbarous, and savage parts of the inhabited world; into the mountainous barren parts of Media, Hyrcania, Iberia, Caspia, and Albania, and Scythia, inhospitable nations, and mortal enemies to strangers.

Plead; debate, pass sentence, and execute it also on you.

Face to face; not, as the rabbins dream, to conceal the dishonour of the Jews, but indeed plainly, openly, and so as my hand shall be seen.

Verse 36

With your fathers, who died there, and never entered Canaan.

In the wilderness; which lay on the further side of the Red Sea, over against the land of Egypt, and is from it called, as here, though it be Arabia Deserta; in which, within the space of less than forty years, all the rebellious murmurers died.

Verse 37

I will bring you out by number, yet so as you shall either by a voluntary submission own my sceptre and government, or by a conquered subjection yield to my sword and power.

Under the rod; either referring to the manner of shepherds in that country, which did tell their sheep in and out of the fold; or rather, as a king, whose sceptre protects some, and dasheth others, and maintains his own right. I will difference persons and persons, that I may deal with each suitably to their state and carriage.

Will bring you, i.e. the voluntary and obedient, into covenant with myself.

Verse 38

Purge out; cull, and pick out, that they may be rejected, as they deserve, or brought forth to shame and punishment.

The rebels, the contumacious sinners, who harden themselves against God; his severe wasting judgments shall find them out in their hiding-places, and drag them out, but not to return them to Canaan, they shall no more return thither.

Ye shall know that I am the Lord; by which it shall appear, that though apostates may change their religion, and deny their God, yet he hath not less power to restrain, nor less right to govern, nor less sovereignty to dispose of them.

Verse 39

In short, you have done wickedly as you could, and I have done what was sufficient to reclaim you, I have foretold you what will be the final event, O house of Israel, and further I will not strive with you.

Go ye; ironically spoken, or, as is usually said to unreclaimable ones, Take your course, which allows not, nor commands, but threatens the evil course of such a one; or it is a divorce of this adulterous house, an utter casting them off for their idolatry.

Hereafter also: it seems an abrupt, vehement speech, which includes some heavy sentence, but it is suppressed, as too great to be uttered, or to leave room for doing more than the offender expected, Ecclesiastes 11:9; Amos 4:4; Matthew 23:23. You take yours, I will take my course, and see whose word shall stand. But while ye are such idolaters and notorious sinners, forbear to take my name into your lips, bring me none of your gifts and sacrifices to your idols, and pretend you bring them ultimately to me.

Verse 40

The gifts of idolaters, and all their painted stuff, God rejected in the former verse; now he encourageth the upright, those that feared, and obeyed, and waited on him. Mine holy mountain; Zion, holy hill, Psalms 2:6; holy by designation, and God’s own appointing it for his temple and presence.

The height of Israel: the hypocrites, you have your high places, I abhor them; my church hath its high place, but it is the Mount Zion I have loved and chosen, called the height: it was the glory of Israel, and though lower than many other hills, yet it was above them all for God’s peculiar presence there.

All the house of Israel; redeemed by me, whom I have brought out of Babylon according to promise, the returned captivity.

All of them: it is doubled to insure them.

In the land; their own land, and their fathers’ land.

Serve me; not idols, but the God of their fathers.

Accept them; delight in them, and in their sacrifices.

Require your offerings: when I have brought you into, and blest you in, the land, then I will require your offerings as formerly; your first-fruits, your tithes, in a word, all your holy gifts: you shall see my temple built, Jerusalem filled with inhabitants, the land of Israel planted with seed of man and beast, my worship restored, and you shall go up with joy, carrying your holy things, and I will there accept them.

Verse 41

The same gracious promise for substance repeated.

Sweet savour; incense of a pure and obedient heart.

From the people; from Babylon, and the parts of that kingdom, where they had been scattered these seventy years. Gather you, by Cyrus’s proclamation, and my secret impulse on the spirits of the faithful and constant Jews, while apostates stay behind.

Sanctified; magnified and praised for the good I do to my people, and on occasion of their love, fear, and obedience to me.

Before the heathen; heathens shall see, and say, as Psalms 126:2, God hath done great things for them; their God is the great, the merciful, and faithful God. who hath remembered his servants.

Verse 42

Ye shall know more fully by experience that he is your God, who is the great, good, wise, and faithful God, who performs his word; you shall know, and love, fear, obey, and worship him alone, and according to his will. Of the rest of the verse, see Ezekiel 20:5,Ezekiel 20:23,Ezekiel 20:28, where these passages are spoken to.

Verse 43

In your restored state, and in your prosperity, in the land whither you are returned, ye shall review your former ways with sorrow; remember, and grieve.

Your ways of your folly, explained by their doings, which defiled them, i.e. all their more notorious sins.

Loathe: see Ezekiel 6:9.

In your own sight; your own heart and conscience shall see what you have done, and they shall take shame, and be humbled, though none else see it.

Verse 44

This 44th verse doth summarily acquaint us that all Goa did for this people was of free, mere mercy, and for his own sake, not theirs.

Ye shall know; experimentally, with affection and obedience. The hypocrite secretly thinks somewhat in himself and works that God had regard to, but an honest, good heart, when God hath wrought, owneth the mercy wrought to be free and undeserved.

Verse 45

A new prophecy, and which pertains, say some, to the next chapter, which is a large comment on this short prophecy in the three last verses, for the 45th and 46th are introductory.

Verse 46

He was now in Babylon, north from Jerusalem, and being commanded to look toward the south, it is toward Jerusalem, and the land of Canaan.

Thy face; thy courage and undaunted mind, manifest in prophesying as thou art commissioned.

Drop; let thy word distil, begin with softer words ere thou shower down with the vehemency of a storm; prophesy so, Amos 7:16; Micah 2:6.

The forest of the south field, i.e. Jerusalem, which was become like a forest for multitude of inhabitants, for barrenness, wildness, degeneracy, and sheltering wild beasts; murderers lodged in her.

Verse 47

Hear; hearken diligently, and consider.

The word of the Lord; what God foretells shall be done.

I will kindle a fire, I will bring an evil like fire, the Chaldean forces, in thee, in the midst of the land.

Every green tree, & c.; all that flourish, and all that are poor.

The flaming flame; it will be a raging and swift fire.

Shall not be quenched; all means that can be used will not avail to quench this fire, till it hath burnt up all.

Faces; persons and orders of men, expressed by faces.

From the south to the north; from one end of the land to the other: the length of Judea did so lie from south to north.

Shall be burnt: with terrors, labours, flight, famine, and sickness, occasioned by this mighty invasion, all persons shall wither, and be as parched, or burnt.

Verse 48

That is, all the nations round about, near to them, shall clearly see, openly own it, as God’s own work, both kindling this fire, and continuing it till it hath consumed all which God would destroy by it.

Verse 49

When the prophet had done his duty, and prophesied, and they should have heard and understood, he returns with a complaint of their quarrelling, censuring, flouting, and reproaching him for it: one while they account him mad, out of his wits, taken up with raptures and ecstasies, or else doting and dreaming; thus they fortify themselves in their atheism, infidelity, idolatry, and all other sins, and fear not thy word, but contemn thy servant.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ezekiel 20". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.